Is it possible for a family to live for free? I want you to think about how you live, your lifestyle and how it might be possible to do some of what you do for free. I know it is easier for singles and there are various articles about single people living for free, but how doable is this for families?
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How to Live for Free
The first thing you need to do is assess all the areas you spend money and work out how you might be able to get them for free. If you cannot get them for free, can you make enough money from them to cancel out their cost?
Each day we make choices about our life and lifestyle. Those choices impact our cost of living. For example, some people want stability and to stay in one home for a long period. This means they will need to buy or rent a home. Others like to travel which means they can housesit, couch surf, work on farms or stay at other free accommodation.
It’s your life, you can choose which option suits you and use your budget accordingly. This article has a lot of suggestions, not all of them will be for everyone.
How To Get Free Accommodation
One of the biggest expenses we have in life is accommodation, whether that be rent, a mortgage or boarding, many people spend 30% or more of their income on their accommodation. According to the ABS home owners spend an average of $453 a week and renters $376 a week. (The data is a couple of years old, so probably more now). That is between $19,552 and $23,556 a year. What could you do with that much money?
You can get free accommodation, sometimes it requires moving around a lot or having a nomadic lifestyle, other times you can get long term free housing.
When people go on holidays they do not want their home left empty. You can join websites such as Aussie House Sitters and Mind A Home, look for Facebook groups, check out Gumtree or set up your own page on Facebook and let people know you are house sitting.
Work With Accommodation
WOOFING (Work On Organic Farms) is one option in Australia where you work and get free accommodation. Other options include cruises, being an au pair, nanny or housekeeper, groundskeeper, work at caravan parks or camping grounds or volunteer.
Couchsurfing is the idea of staying at someone’s place for free. You can use an official site such as Couchsurfing, check out Facebook groups or use your own network to find places to stay. I have used the Couchsurfing site both as a guest and host. My experiences were all good (although one guest and I had nothing in common and it felt a little awkward, my other experiences more than made up for it.)
Free Camping Grounds
Did you know there are loads of free campgrounds around the world? Not all of them have toilets or running water, some are in the outback or similar, but there are some great ones with amenities. A quick Google search will help as will this Facebook group.
Make Your Home Pay For Itself
If you have a home, could it pay for itself? I outlined in this post ways to make a home pay for itself based on the house I was living in at the time. This is something I do every time I look at a property. Some of the things I and others I know have done to make a home pay for itself include:
They pay half of the rent and other bills or they pay a set amount and it’s all inclusive. Read how to rent a room to a boarder and make sure you do the checks in it first.
I have rented rooms out for a few nights at different times. In Canberra it was only $70 per night when I started for my spare room but now would rent for $125+ per night. In Melbourne, I rented one apartment out for a months rent during the Australian Open, another time I made $1,300 in 5 days over Christmas in a much smaller apartment and over $600 for a week when I went away.
Check out my full guide on how to make money with Airbnb for all my tips.
Rent The Garage
I rented my garage to a mum in business who needed more space. It was cheaper than renting an office or something to have on her property and we lived around the corner from each other.
Another time I rented it on Spacer and a guy booked it to store his spare Mercedes.
Turned a Lounge into a Studio
I ran classes, as did my best friend, from our home studio. One class a week with a few people paid the rent! We ran series of classes such as photography basics, social media, marketing, business etc and they booked out.
Rent Out The Driveway
This could be to people looking to store their caravan, a boat or if you live close to office blocks, you could rent the space to workers. If you live somewhere close to a stadium or showground, you could rent your driveway and lawn to people attending.
Signs on Fences/in Windows:
Local businesses sometimes pay home owners to have signs on their fences promoting the business such as plumbers, builders, fencers, even circuses visiting the area look for this.
Rent the Garage/Lawn/Garden/Pool:
The garage or lawn can be rented for storage such as for a caravan, boat or special car. A garden can be divided into plots for others to use to grow things or you could rent the pool to a fitness/swimming instructor to run classes.
Rent your house for movies, photo shoots, videos, advertising and other options. This isn’t just for light and airy homes or spooky homes for horror films. Decorate your home in a specific style, (right now Scandinavian and quite light/airy homes are popular), have props like in magazines then rent out your home.
You can rent by the day, by the hour, per room or the whole home. Your home can be rented to small businesses looking to do product shoots, companies wanting to do headshots or videos for their business, bloggers, magazines or TV and movie producers. My last few photo and video shoots (where I was a brand ambassador) were done this way.
Before you think these options are only available to people with a spare bedroom, large house or similar, I have done it in small units too.
If you do any of these have a clear contract with terms, conditions, liability, insurance matters and everything covered. Trust your instinct and don’t rent to anyone you feel uncomfortable with. Check the legalities in your area and abide by any laws you need to.
Food or groceries are one of the biggest expenses for Australians (the other highest ones others are tax, housing and transport). The average family spends $250 to $300 a week on food, groceries and alcohol, or $13,000 to $15,600 a year! I share ways to reduce your groceries here, but what about getting food and other items for free?
You can get free food by foraging and before you turn your nose up at it, Ben Shewry forages for Attica, which has been listed as one of the top 50 restaurants in the world for 5 years in a row! My friend, Serina of Ms Frugal Ears, is great at this and has some delicious recipes using foraged food on her blog.
Things like berries, apples, wild weeds such as baby dandelions and many herbs are items I have seen and foraged. At my primary school, there were blackberry bushes at the back. We used to fill our lunch boxes with them and mum would make jam or desserts. My ex-mother in law told me in Hawaii they foraged tropical fruits, kumara (sweet potato) and plenty of other plants. In fact, she said many hotels had edible food in their gardens they were able to access. How legal that was, I’m not sure…
Check any wild food to see if it is an area that has been sprayed. Councils view blackberry bushes and many other plants as weeds and attempt to kill them off with poisons. Also check if it is legal to do in your area. Do NOT forage in National Parks for example.
To know more about where and what to forage check out the Wild Food Map but check your own backyard first. You’ll be surprised at the edible weeds you have.
Growing up we had fruit trees (apricots and nectarines usually). Our neighbours had plums and other fruits. Many people in our community swapped produce or bartered services for produce.
Alternatively, one option I have had with a few flatmates was they paid for groceries while I meal planned and cooked for us. They hated cooking and I saved them hundreds each week because I am a frugal cook but still cooked exactly what they wanted. I’ve done this both as a single person and as a single mother.
These are only available around your birthday, so you can’t use them all the time but all family members can sign up individually. Check them out here.
Grow Or Catch Your Own
If you have space you can grow your own produce. Many items can be grown from cuttings or if you purchase them with the roots in tact (such as herbs or lettuce) you can cut off what you need and plant the rest to grow. Check out how to grow your own herbs, look at making your own lettuce hanger from PVC pipes and consider these 9 plants for your garden.
If you have fishing gear you can catch fish, which is something we did around Christmas and Easter when camping. Alternatively, I have friends who hunt their food such as kangaroos (with a licence) and rabbits in Australia or deer in the USA.
Free Community Food
Depending on your circumstances, there are food banks, community pantries and charities who provide food, vouchers and complete meals. I prefer to leave these for those who truly need it. If you are in a position where you need extra help, don’t be afraid to ask charities in your area for it.
How To Get Free Transport
As a nation, we are spending an average of $17,000 a year on transport. While this number shocked many, when I did the sums for myself a few years ago when I owned a car, it was around $20,000! Now, we walk everywhere or occasionally use public transport or Uber. In Melbourne, I spent an average of $90 a month on transport (Uber), a large portion of that is work trips, not personal travel.
Now I’ve moved to the Sunshine Coast, we use buses and spend maybe $30 a week since most of what we need is in walking distance.
You’d be surprised by how far you can walk once you get used to it. We’ve had quite a few weekends where we’ve walked 15kms or more in 1 day.
When walking on my own I listen to podcasts, audiobooks or music. When walking as a family we have interesting discussions and sometimes do photography walks. If you wanted, you could look for help wanted signs and get paid $1 to upload them to Indeed.
Get a bike plus helmet (check freecycle, your tip shop or groups on Facebook for a free one) and use it instead of a car. Many cities have well-planned bike paths now to help more people ride instead of drive.
Free Public Transport
Some cities have free public transport in certain areas or at certain times. Check what is available for you.
Free Uber Ride
Get one free trip with Uber (value varies depending on where you live) by downloading the app and using the code kyliet591ue.
Carpool or work out a bartering system to get rides with others. You could cook, clean, do yard work or come to some agreement to cover the cost.
Childcare can cost as much as one income in some areas, greatly reducing the motivation and capacity for many mothers to return to work after children. To get free childcare arrange childcare swaps. I know various groups of mothers who each take a turn looking after the kids one day a week. This means everyone can work and the children are taken care of for no cost.
While education isn’t completely free, there are options. You can choose to homeschool (there are around 30,000 children homeschooled in Australia), connect with the free community online, use your local library, the internet and do this yourself.
You might also like How To Afford School Expenses.
Entertainment doesn’t need to be movies, kids indoor playgrounds or bowling. Check your local area for free things to see and do, festivals coming up and enter competitions to win tickets to things you want to do.
If you have one of the housing options listed towards the beginning of the article, they generally include utilities as well so you don’t have to pay. Alternatively, if you are living somewhere, shop around to get a better deal. E.g. ReAmped offers $50 credit to new customers.
Living for free isn’t an easy task, it is doable with a lot of planning, getting creative and changing how you think about life in general. Many of the things we think are needs are wants and we can do without. It’s up to you what lifestyle you want though.
Get Other Discounts
We have so many discounts and coupons available. While they aren’t freebies, they certainly help reduce the cost of living. We share a list in our newsletter every week plus exclusive discounts we get for you such as $60 off with Dinnerly! (It is $20 off your first 3 boxes).
Plus check out how to get a discount on everything.
What do you think? Can a family live for free?